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Al Batt: Who carried the straw?

Echoes -from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

What’s wrong with you?

I superglued my thumb and my forefinger together.

Don’t worry, everything will be OK.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me, such as: The times had yet to become enlightened with personal screens. There were more vending machines than digital devices. We called the contraptions coke machines, no matter what brand was inside. They were rectangular coolers. You lifted the lid to pop bottles hanging by their necks and slid a glass bottle down a channel to a point where it could be freed by a payment. I sat near one of those in an Iowa gas station years ago. There was a youthful group enjoying salted peanuts in a Coke. An older boy asked if anybody had a church key and a straw. He said that was all we needed to get free pop. Who carried a straw?

Voting gets sticky

Our township opted for voting by mail this year. It went well. I’ve been an election judge for forever and a day, so it seemed odd. There was something I missed. Was it the long hours? No. Was it all the additional paperwork? I don’t think so.

Back when I was in grade school, we rarely went on field trips, but when we did, my mother packed a lunch for me. She tossed a bologna sandwich wrapped in wax paper, an apple and red Jell-O into a hand-me-down lunch pail. I had a cowboy lunch pail. It wasn’t a Roy Rogers lunch pail. It wasn’t a Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger or a Hopalong Cassidy either. It wasn’t even a Gabby Hayes. There was an image of a cowboy on the lid. Part of that likeness had been scraped away during the lunch pail’s battered life. My mother placed some other healthy options into the lunch pail. Carrot sticks and celery stalks. Then she placed the Holy Grail into my lunch pail — a Twinkie. I’m sure it was organic. My mother repeated the same rule each time she handed the lunch pail over to her youngest child, “Promise me you’ll eat the carrots and celery before you eat the Twinkie.” I promised, wanting the Twinkie. I recall one field trip on an orange school bus. I don’t remember where we went, but I remember my lunch. I devoured the sandwich involving butter from a local creamery and Wonder Bread “Helps build strong bodies 12 ways.” I ate the rest, including the carrots and celery. Then there was a flag on the field. I discovered there was no Twinkie. Mother had either run out of the golden sponge cakes with a creamy filling or she’d forgotten to put one in. That left a hole in my day.

What I missed most about the normal in-person election was handing out “I voted” stickers. That left a bit of a hole in my Election Day. I filled part of it by beginning to read a nemesis book.

The secret to life may be found in small victories. After a lifetime of trying, I read all 135 chapters of “Moby-Dick,” Herman Melville’s extraordinary and exasperating novel about a ship captain’s quest for revenge on a white whale. Sperm whales eat squid, sharks, skates and fish, but aren’t believed to devour Twinkies out of cowboy lunch pails.

I’ve learned

Four-way flashers signal a driver knows something I don’t know.

When you use a catalog for toilet paper in an outhouse, it’s difficult for a family to be on the same page.

If you hear hoofbeats, look for horses, not zebras.

College was when I learned home is where my laundry is.

From the mailbag regarding the

funniest movies

Dave Olerud of Haines, Alaska, wrote, “A fun movie we watched was ‘Secondhand Lions.’”

A New Richland reader offered “Moonstruck” and Austin readers suggested “Caddyshack” and “Clue.”

Nature notes

Someone sent me a list saying we swallow eight spiders a year in our sleep. I don’t know what you’ve been up to, but I don’t eat spiders. Unless you order spiders on your pizza or are a professional spider-swallower, you haven’t been swallowing any spiders. An open mouth snores like a souped-up Hoover vacuum cleaner and frightens spiders away.

Hedge apples sold in supermarkets repel spiders if you throw them at the spiders. This fruit of the Osage orange tree wards off no spiders. Spiders live on the trees or build webs on the fallen fruit.

Meeting adjourned

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” — William Arthur Ward